New report outlines costs and benefits of self-driving technologies
Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE) released its latest policy brief: "America’s Workforce and the Self-Driving Future: Realizing Productivity Gains and Spurring Economic Growth." The study is an examination and in-depth economic analysis of the effects self-driving technologies could have on the American economy and its workforce. The report is based on research and individual reports led by three economists: former Bureau of Labor Statistics Commissioner Erica Groshen, former Senior Fellow at Resources for the Future W. David Montgomery, and Compass Transportation CEO Richard Mudge.
The report found that by 2050, autonomous vehicles (AVs) will add between $3 and $6 trillion in cumulative consumer and societal benefits to the U.S. economy. Annually, $800 billion in economic and societal benefits could be realized when AVs are fully deployed. Nearly every American will benefit from improved safety; enhanced access to transportation for senior citizens, people with disabilities, and the disadvantaged; increased productivity; and the ability to gain productive time for work or errands.
“Self-driving technologies will have an enormously positive impact on our country, our economy, and our society. This is an opportunity too great to ignore and now is the time to prepare and implement policies that will unlock these myriad benefits and mitigate any negative impacts of this technological shift,” said Robbie Diamond, President and CEO of SAFE. “There is a balance we must strike to realize the billions in economic savings from increased travel access and productivity, to reduced congestion and fewer accidents. The more we maximize the economic and productivity benefits while minimizing any potential impacts on job holders, the better off our country and workforce will be.”
In addition to an assessment of the economic power of this technology, SAFE and the report’s authors also set out to realistically assess the potential impact that AV adoption will have on the American workforce. While reports to date have cited massive job losses, with the implication that there is no alternative and no job recovery, this report’s findings show a relatively measured and shorter-term impact on the labor market. The report concludes with steps policymakers can take today to reduce future workforce displacements and ease the transition periods for those who seek new jobs.
To understand the potential effects, the study modeled labor market impacts from AVs, concluding that job transition will not occur until the mid-2030s, with the most significant transition occurring in the 2040s. The job gap, the difference between the rate of displacement and re-employment, is expected to plateau between the late 2040s and early 2050s. During that period, the contribution of AV-related job loss to the U.S. unemployment rate is expected to peak at .06 to .13 of one percent, representing approximately 170,000 to 380,000 jobs. In context, today’s current workforce is approximately 160.3 million. In addition, the recessions of the early 2000s and Great Recession respectively contributed an additional 1.6 and 5 percent to the unemployment rate.
The study examines specific areas of the workforce to determine where AVs will have the greatest impact to provide time and information to best direct resources to assist those who will face job displacement.
“AV adoption will cause consequential workforce shifts. While this isn’t a time to panic, neither is it a time for complacency. Unlike past labor market disruptions, U.S. policymakers, companies, and communities will have the ability to plan ahead for this technological change in order to mitigate the risks to U.S. workers and their families,” said Erica Groshen, a report author, Visiting Senior Scholar at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, and former Commissioner of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Self-driving vehicles have potentially large-scale benefits for many Americans. We, the authors, intend our report and simulations to serve as useful tools to commence and inform the crucial discussions needed to achieve a smooth transition that allows all Americans to see benefits from AVs in the years ahead.”
The SAFE brief also emphasizes that delaying this technology is not the answer, as doing so will both weaken the nation’s ability to combat labor disruption and deeply injure public welfare by denying crucial societal and economics benefits to be realized.
The full executive summary and the report can be found here.